One of the promises that my husband and I made to ourselves when we talked about having children, was that we’d continue to satisfy our desire to travel. We looked forward to carting our future children around the country and around the world.
Our 16 month old daughter has taken three trips in her life, so far. We flew to Austin when she was 8 months old for SXSW, to Krakow for a wedding when she was 11 months old and most recently, to Seattle to visit friends when she was 15 months old.
Taking Alice to Austin for SXSW was pretty rad. My mom, an audiologist, made a pair of custom-fit earplugs for Alice’s wee ears, so that we could go to shows without ruining her hearing. That is probably pretty much the number one rule of traveling with small children — be prepared, so that your style isn’t cramped. Besides the earplugs, I brought along my soft carrier so that we wouldn’t be hampered by a stroller in venues.
We tried to pack as light as possible but since we were renting a car, we had to bring along our car seat. Most car rental places offer car seats to rent but you can never guarantee their availability by the time you make it to the car rental office, and you also cannot guarantee the condition of the seat.
Flying internationally with a newly mobile infant is ‘nother ballgame but again, preparedness is KEY…
We had a night flight, and booked a baby bed for Alice. The airline we flew offered this at no extra charge. Alice slept for most of the flight in the bed, and we were able to relax without a squirmy , desperate-to-crawl baby on our laps. It was *almost* like old times, when we got to kick back and enjoy the ride. Almost. Flying at night allowed Alice to keep some semblance of a routine, and lessened the impact of jet lag.
We also contacted the hotel ahead of time and requested a crib in our room. Though we normally like to pack light, we decided to bring our full-size stroller on this trip, with mixed results. It was great on the one hand, because Alice was able to nap in the stroller while we did sightseeing around Krakow, and slept in the stroller during the actual wedding while we partied the night away. On the other hand, a big stroller is a big stroller. We actually popped a tire entering the airport for our flight home, which made it a pain to lug around until we could get the stroller checked in, and meant that we couldn’t use the stroller at all while waiting for our flight. Oh well!
When we flew to Seattle, we had a walker on our hands–a full-blown toddler. On our previous trips, Alice had been a lap child. At 8 months, she was still content to sleep in my arms and nurse, and for the international trip, she had the previously mentioned bed. This time around was hard work! We learned two things from that trip: if the trip involves a major time change, fly at night, and if your kid is a ball of frenetic energy with no attention span, book a third seat and bring the car seat on board! Two years of age is the cutoff for lap children, for most airlines but it all depends on your kid… some toddlers can sit there and be entertained happily. My toddler is not one of them, despite being plied with books, new toys, snacks and all sorts of gadgets at her disposal. We arrived back home so exhausted that it sort of negated the vacation we’d just taken. Live and learn! We
So, my advice for those of you traveling with small children:
- Be prepared. Make your child comfortable so that YOU can be comfortable.
- Fly at night whenever possible, if there’s a major time change.
- Go ahead and spring for that extra seat if you think you’ll be spending the flight wrassling with your child.
- Be flexible. This will probably save your sanity. Kids don’t like being uprooted from their routine, no matter how exciting the trip may be, so you’ll need to bend a little and not expect that it’ll be the same as flying by yourself.